The architect of the remarkable transformation of the Ritz-Carlton hotel is President and CEO, Andrew Torriani. A man with a passion for hospitality … and for hockey!
Andrew Torriani has a passion for hotels. It is practically genetic. If he were Gaulois, one might even say he fell into it when he was little. Literally.
Growing up in hotels
Originally Swiss, Andrew Torriani grew up, like his brothers, in the corridors of different hotels, due to his father’s career postings. He demonstrated early on his desire to meet the needs of customers. While his father worked in a resort in South Africa, Andrew, at 11 years old, became resident film projectionist and organized movie showings for appreciative young guests. His father entrusted Andrew with increasing responsibilities, challenging his growing capabilities, and enabling him little by little to learn the hard and various hospitality trades.
When his father was appointed Assistant Manager of the Four Seasons Hotel in Montréal, Andrew discovered Québec. And while he studied at the Petit Séminaire de Québec, he worked weekends at the Caf’Conc’ in the Château Champlain hotel. The legendary cabaret left its mark on the young man, not even of legal age to frequent it. The Torriani family relocated to Chicago, then to Dusseldorf, but when it came time to enroll at University, Andrew chose Queens to earn his BA in Mathematics, and McGill for his diploma in Applied Management. A curriculum well suited for one destined to pursue hotel management! What’s more: during high school and college, Andrew Torriani worked at the restaurant of the Ritz-Carlton rising from dishwasher to captain.
After graduation, Andrew Torriani worked as human resources director at Air Canada, yet he still carried a torch for the Ritz-Carlton. A few years later, the family created a hotel management company which is now the largest shareholder of the Ritz-Carlton. And this is how Andrew found himself at the head of a large $200 million renovation project. The metamorphosis has taken longer than expected, “but we wanted the hotel to live up to its reputation, its history, and its brand,” says the proud CEO. “Our greatest challenge today is to meet the needs of customers who expect the ultimate in luxury and even to anticipate their needs. And even if practices appear more democratic than 100 years ago, we must endeavor to maintain a level of seamless formality consistent with the prestige of our institution.” One might expect the Head of such an institution to be a little staid, a touch elitist, maintaining a certain reserve with his almost 300 employees. Not in the slightest. Probably due to his experience in humbler positions, but also a result of his education and character, this leader exemplifies humility and thoughtfulness, never hesitates to respond to clients himself, and is sincerely interested in people and in his staff.
More than one trick up his sleeve
In fact for Andrew Torriani, the strength of the Ritz-Carlton is its great supporting team, of which he is the coach … who never hesitates to jump on the ice and who knows how to pass the puck when necessary.
Andrew Torriani will tell you that this concept of the role of leader and guide corresponds to the managerial spirit of the Ritz. The analogy is not accidental. Because not only has Andrew Torriani adopted Québec, but also its national sport. Thanks to his father who was a professional player in Davos, Switzerland and to his days at McGill, he has become over time a hockey fanatic. He plays at least once a week and attends Canadiens games several times a year. He follows the Habs religiously on TV with his two daughters and his son. On occasion, when work allows, he coaches a team of young players that includes his son. Torriani’s coaching experience is precious to him; he claims to apply often the lessons and strategies learned behind the bench to his work as a manager. What a perfect outlet for someone so competitive.